Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm off to spend the entire day at the beach today. I seriously have no idea when the last time I did that was, as least in Southern California. Most of the beaches are pretty crowded and crazy, but we're going to head to the less-populated Crystal Cove in Laguna. 

2. I went to the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z "Legends of the Summer" concert last weekend at the Rose Bowl and was seriously impressed (not with traffic or parking, though). The crowd had the most energy I've ever seen and the production itself was simple awesome. It was the best people watching I've ever had.

[Fact: it's basically impossible to tale a good concert picture]
3. I bought a pint of the Ben and Jerry's Liz Lemon ice cream (lemon, blueberry, and lavender) last weekend and I managed to made it last five whole days. It was really good (and even made with my arch-nemesis Greek yogurt); apparently when I'm really trying I actually do have a tiny bit of self-control.

4. I had coffee with Monica from Run Eat Repeat the other day and we started talking about teachers and the internet, and how there needs to be more district training on what is acceptable in terms of social media. Teachers also need to be taught how to safely utilize it as a tool for learning and communication. Yes, there are sites like Edmodo, but let's face it- the kids already spend a ton of time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

5.  I'm currently reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I love, and I just wrote out this long-winded spiel on racial politics that I promptly deleted for fear of misinterpretation. Bottom line: I think sometimes there's this sort of preconceived notion that white Americans are supposed to be embarrassed for being white and American. I have some thoughts that are still coming together. Books that make you think are the best.

6. When sitting at a red light I really like watching the expressions of the people turning left, across the intersection. It feels so intrusive, like I'm watching them do something private, like relieve themselves or have sex. Cars are such weird places- we feel like we're isolated and invisible, but we're really not.

7. I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday to pick up a magazine for the beach and not one single publication sparked my interest. I used to be the magazine queen! And seriously, when did they start costing six bucks a pop? Highway robbery, I tell you.

8. The new Edible Garden being planned at the AT&T is pretty damn cool. They plan on taking an area they currently grow extra sod at and converting it to an edible garden that will produce food for concession stands. 

9. I wish I was the type of person that was better at sending cards and notes to people. I think written correspondence has become such a lost art.

10. I'm officially hooked on Downton Abbey. I hate to say it, but as soon as that guy Mary was having sex with died I was sold. I don't necessarily like her (Sybil is obviously the most likeable sister), but how traumatic would that be to be mid-action and then... death. Oh, and I can't believe how... normal.. O'Brien look in real life. 

July Reviews

Seriously, how is it the end of July? The fact that school starts in less than two weeks is downright painful... and I still need to paint baseboards. You know, if everyone - teachers, students, and support staff - got together and just simply refused to show up for a few more weeks we may be on to something. Temporary mutiny. I'm sure it would work. Positive. 

July Reviews:

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
516 pages
I have to begin this with a long sigh. Now a bunch of you are going to absolutely hate me, but I think Night Circus might be a tad overrated. It's entertaining as fuck, but in terms of character development, plot, and even the writing, I think we're coasting on the surface level of things. For those that have no idea what
this book is about, it's about a boy and a girl who are both separately trained by magicians and will one day compete in a sort of game between their mentors. The venue is a magical circus that travels mysteriously around the country, involving a multitude of people. There's love, deceit, and, of course, magic. I started this book in the airport, which was absolutely perfect. 

Verdict: If there were an Oscars for books, I'd describe this as "Oscar bait." Interesting with some truly great parts, but also a reliance on often being too over-the-top.

My Education by Susan Choi
304 pages
I already wrote about this novel here, but in a nutshell it's about a graduate student who ends up having a very tumultuous affair her professor's wife. The novel follows her through her deepening obsession and then fast-forwards into the future to show how her life has panned out.

Verdict: While there were some issues with the decision to include the future events, I appreciated Choi's writing and refusal to hold back while writing some extremely sexual scenes. If you like steamy sex scenes, are interested in collegiate coming-of-age stories, or have ever felt inclined to have an affair this book is totally for you.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
321 pages
In this novel Stein writes from the perspective of an aging dog looking back on his life. The dog, Enzo, is owned by a kind, struggling race car driver that ends up marrying a woman with a brain tumor and having a child. Enzo is there through the good times and bad, shedding light on how it feels to be involved in a family as a pet. I don't think any book has ever made me cry so many times as this one- Enzo was locked inside for four days with out food ("oh my God what would happen to Cordie and Chomsky?" --> tears), Enzo was devastated after getting in big for ripping up some stuffed animals because he thought they were evil ("what if dogs could cry? how sad would that be? have I ever made my dogs cry???" --> tears), the owner loses custody of his daughter ("his wife just died and now they take his daughter?" --> tears), Enzo is hit by a car ("Cordie could never handle being hit by a car!" --> tears)- you get the picture. Let's just say I was outside at 10:30 at night finishing this book in the backyard balling my eyes out (while listening to my husband play video games... juxtaposition for you).  

Verdict: While the perspective was different, this is by no means a literary book. It is an interesting story, but just be prepared to cry if you love animals... or have a soul.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan 
211 pages
This nonlinear story is told alphabetically, through words that describe a relationship that seems doomed from the start. The narrator chooses words that describe different stages, feelings, or events of his relationship and writes an
entry for each, then placing them in alphabetical order. I love that Levithan requires so much inference from his readers- if it was slightly more appropriate it would be great to use at work (I may borrow the idea of creating a dictionary of words to describe something about you or in your life, though). 

Verdict: This is a super, super quick read that more than anything made me think about what vocabulary I'd use to describe my relationship and how the meanings of those words can change over time.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
320 pages
I'm not going to lie- this collection of essays was extremely hard to get through. I'd started it quite some time ago, but put it off with the intention of getting through a few essays each week until I was finished. It sat by my bed for months until a few weeks ago, when I decided I'd just plow through the whole thing and get it over with (ouch). I have to say Smith is a genius and an absolutely amazing writer. There were some essays that I loved, like her take on writing styles, her travels to Africa, and some movie reviews she did for a newspaper. There were other ones, like her essay on Middlemarch (which I have not read), which were pretty painful. 

Verdict: If you're a fan of essay collections or Smith I'd recommend this with a bit of caution- just know what you're getting yourself into. 

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
400 pages
While I am definitely a McEwan fan, I must say that this one wasn't my favorite, nor was it horrible. Serena, the narrator, ends up joining M15 out of college as a result of her ex-lover pulling some strings. She ends up being involved on the Sweet Tooth project, which requires she convince an up-and-coming author to unknowingly write for a government affiliated publishing company to promote their social and political ideas. Serena ends up becoming involved romantically with the writer and eventually this leads to trouble.

Verdict: Again, it wasn't bad, but I thought that it would be much more exciting given the fact that it was about the M15.

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
304 pages
This novel is about an eleven year old pop singer that is in middle of a grueling tour run by his manager mother. He's under enormous pressure from his record company, must cope with his mother's obvious substance abuse problem, and is desperately trying to get in contact with his father, whom he hasn't seen for many years. Jonny knows a lot about the music industry but little about life. I found the behind the scenes aspect interesting, and the story made me feel for child stars. I kept wanting to fine more depth to the store, but there really isn't; it's about a child who is shoved into the limelight and deprived of a "normal" upbringing. 

Verdict: I thought it was entertaining and a quick fun read, but like I said, it lacks the depth that I was hoping for. I just kept picturing Beiber the entire time I was reading it... Fantastic pool/airport/doctor's office choice.

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
224 pages
This is a graphic novel about an underwater welder who must confront his past while prepare for his future. Jack's wife is about to have a baby but he is distracted by the fact the next day is the annual anniversary of his dad's drowning death. The novel flashes back and forth from his childhood and to the present, where he is trying to find something that he is missing, both in terms
of something physical and emotional. He meets his younger self (take that as you will; the intro makes references to The Twilight Zone) and works to remember his father and his flaws. He must also try to salvage his marriage, as his wife is very frustrated with his distant nature and inability to help her prepare for their child. The art work is done in black and white.

Verdict: I'm still getting used to graphic novels, therefore I feel like my ability to critique them adequately is still developing. Nonetheless, I was interested in the story from start to finish and have found my thoughts returning to it all day. It's a great story that focuses on self-awareness and dealing with one's past (and future). 

2,600 pages

Read anything good this month?

Top Ten Tuesday- Immediate Gratification

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list the top ten best beginnings or endings of books. I'm going with the idea of best beginnings in the sense that within a page or two I knew that I was reading something damn special. Here are my impressions of the first page or two of some of my favorites:

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- Solid contemporary literature + narrative voice + overall style

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot- Deeply personal story + biology

3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- Perfect level of confusion + dramatics (guns?)

4. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby- A list of worst breakups + character introduction (what's Rob's problem with this girl Laura, anyway?)

5. Underworld by Don DeLillo- Baseball + awe inspiring prose

6. The Selected Works of TS Spivet be Reif Larsen- Quirky character + fun with marginalia

7. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie- Indian politics + magical realism + captivating narrator

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides- Hermaphrodites + Calliope (the best name ever)

9. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer- Hilariously broken English + endearing narrator 

10. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole- Outrageous character description (oh, Ignatius) + somewhat formal prose 

What made your list?

Rice Krispy Interlude [Recipe]

Even readers have to eat, right? 


Today I made some good ol' Rice Krispy Treats with a twist, inspired by the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I bake a lot, so the fact that I'm actually posting the recipe on here says something. They're damn good, friends, if I do say so myself (pats self on back).

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips

Let's remember that I'm not a recipe writer, nor do I ever intend to be... 
Time: 20-ish minutes
Yield: Depends on how big your squares are; let's go with 2-20


1.5 sticks of unsalted butter (or 6 ounces)
1 15-ounce bag of mini marshmallows
9 cups of Rice Krispies (or the Trader Joes knock off, like I used)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt*
2/3 bag of mixed peanut butter and chocolate chips

1. Pray that you don't screw up the butter browning part. I've gotten pretty good at it since I've been doing it almost once a week for various recipes, but the first time can be a little nerve-wracking. If you're not down with the G.O.D, then check out YouTube for some videos (you're all self-sufficient adults, so I'm not giving you links). 

2. Either spray or butter a cake pan (I think mine as a 9 x 13)

3. In a large stock pot, heat butter over medium heat, stirring gently. Once it completely melts crank it up to medium-high and watch it like a hawk. Browning butter can turn into blackening butter extremely fast, so be careful. Once the water starts evaporating from the butter it will start foaming and slowly change to an amber color (keep stirring). Once it becomes the color of, let's say caramel, stir for fifteen more seconds and remove the pot from heat. When in doubt remove the pan- black butter is burnt butter, and burnt butter tastes like shit.

4. Dump in marshmallows and salt- stir continuously. I returned my pot to the stove over low heat to speed up the melting process. 

5. After the marshmallows and butter have become one fully combined, dump in the krispies. Stir until you almost have an even coating of the butter/marshmallow mixture on the krispies and dump in the chips. Stir some more.

6. Pour in pan, grab a metal spoon and run it under cool water- use it to flatten out the mixture. Let cool for awhile and then eat. 

7. Calculate how many miles you will have to ride on your bike to burn off the many, many treats you will eat. 

[food photographer I am not]

* The sea salt could be left out; it's definitely not over-powering, but if you're watching your sodium levels you might as well eliminate it from the recipe.
This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is one of the best food blogs I've ever read.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. After reading about this board on Annie's Eats this morning, I am obsessed with the "My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter" Pinterest board. A woman named Tiffany Beveridge created it for her "daughter" Quinoa, satirizing the mini-members of the upper-crust (and modeling industry).

2. I haven't wanted to say anything and jinx it, but I've been working on a new writing project for awhile. I've put what I was working on during NaNoWriMo last November on an indefinite hold and have started something completely new. I think NaNoWriMo was a great experience and fantastic exercise, but towards the end I started dreading sitting down at the computer to write. This time it's much different- I look forward to working and am excited with the direction I'm heading. Don't worry, I won't quit blogging when I sell the manuscript to a major publisher and start my whirlwind book tour wearing nothing but all the new Anthro dresses I'll buy with my advance money.

[one day I will own all the dresses]

3. I just finished The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne last night and while I'm still letting the book sort of, shall we say, percolate, I think it has a lot less depth than I thought it would. Not that it was bad- it was definitely entertaining, it just turned out being a little too obvious and surface-level for me (and then I start doubting myself, thinking "Wait! What if that's what the author wanted, and there's still another layer of meaning under that!"). 

4. I took Chomsky into the vet last week to have a little spot on his face checked and the official diagnosis was "he's a fatty." The dog weighed in at a solid 105 pounds, up ten pounds from the last time he was in several months ago (and at that point he needed to lose five). He tried to convince me it was muscle from all the swimming, but I'm not buying it. I said he had two choices: either eat less or get doggy lap band. He considered both options carefully and opted to reduce his calories. He's been tracking his macros (fat, protein, and carbs) on the app for his phone for a week now and I plan to drive him back to the vet next month to see if he's made progress. Until then we'll just continue breaking down his self-esteem until he can't stand the site of food. 

[I'm so fat and depressed]

5. I know I can save 5% on my entire purchase if I use my Target Debit Card. Trust me, I hear the spiel at least once a week. I understand it's not a credit card, I do. No please stop asking me and respect my decision to not fill my wallet with anymore cards.

6. The Booker Long List came out this week and I have yet to sit down with Amazon's UK site to try to find some more synopses. I've been a little disappointed with their picks the last year or two (not that they were bad books, just not my taste), so hopefully this year I can find a few (other than the Ozeki one, which I've already been looking at) to buy at some point.

7. The other day I decided that my perfect triathalon would be biking, hiking, and yoga. If this did actually exist, then Tuesday I did a brick training session for it (two of the sports back-to-back). I drove down to the bike trail and did twelve miles (and ran into my grandpa!) and then went to a yoga class. Luckily I wasn't sore at all, just really, really damn tired. 

8. Sometimes I get really nostalgic for the games my sister and I used to play on our computer growing up. We had Kid Pix, Oregon Trail, Number One Agent, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, and Sim City. I was pretty good at all of them! And now I play LEGO Lord of the Rings and it takes me fifteen goddamn minutes to figure out how to combine a fish, egg, and tomato in Sam's frying pan.

9. I can't stop eating these these Avocado and Fried Egg Pitas this week, nor can I stop roasting broccoli. Tonight I plan on making these Browned Butter Rice Krispy Treats (with some peanut butter and chocolate chips) to share with my grandparents when I see them for a bike ride and lunch tomorrow.

[source- Smitten Kitchen]

10. I hate it when teachers say they're "ready to go back to work" during summer vacation. With all-do respect, shut the hell up! No! This is a magical, beautiful time in our lives and you should abs-fucking-lutely not be ready to go back. Need something to do? Read a book. Sleep in. Watch TV. Learn how to knit. Write letters to prison inmates. I don't care, just shut the hell up and stop messing with the universe. 

Document This- Skid Row, Cycling, and Shakespeare

Despite my supposed love for documentaries, I haven't watched nearly as many as I thought I would this summer. The three that I have seen have been all really interesting (all available to stream on Netflix):

Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home
75 minutes
While at lunch with some friends last week this was brought up and I was instantly intrigued, since a few of my past driving mistakes have led me accidentally through this area of Los Angeles. I went to add it to my queue and realized it was already there- oops! Anyway, Skid Row is an area of 50 blocks
near downtown Los Angeles comprised of thousands of people in both homeless encampments and low-income housing. Many of the inhabitants are those with mental health issues, addictions, or are hiding from demons that haunt them back home. The documentary highlights several long-time residents, including a previous Olympic athlete (has since left), a woman who is obsessed with cats and collects trash, and a transgendered father who has been diagnosed with a multitude of mental illnesses. The documentary also interviews local missions and shelters, which often operate without help from the city. Without getting into the politics, downtown LA is the ultimate example of gentrification- people with higher incomes are coming into poorer areas and buying up the real estate and kicking out those that previously lived there. Interestingly, it costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars less to help people of low socioeconomic status find housing than it does to support them as prisoners (which so many homeless and poor people become, given the fact that it's basically impossible to survive on the street without breaking laws).

Should You Watch It? So many of us are content to live in a bubble- myself included. We feel badly for those who are struggling but we don't do much to educate ourselves or do anything about it. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. If anything, I think watching this will help increase compassion- as the documentary points out, no one sits in their third-grade classroom and declares they want to be a homeless addict when they grow up. This isn't to say people shouldn't take responsibility for themselves, they should; some people need a little (or big) push in the right direction. Digression over.

Ride the Divide
80 minutes
I've recently started riding my bike more and was interested to see how endurance riders handle races. Ride the Divide is an underground race that starts in Canada and ends at the US/Mexico border in New Mexico. Riders must endure snowy passes, grueling climbs, camping wherever they can, and fueling properly. This isn't The Tour- these cyclists don't have crews in vans next to them handing them Cliff Bars or directing them to good places to sleep. These riders are on their own, occasionally riding with their fellow competitors for company. The documentary focuses on a few riders in particular, recording their moments of triumph, pain (the swollen legs are no joke), and defeat when some are forced to back out. The scenery is beautiful and I found myself becoming more and more invested in each of the riders.

Should You Watch It? If you are interested in endurance sports, absolutely. Cycling enthusiasts and those that appreciate stories of struggle (in nature) will also probably enjoy it.

Shakespeare High 
81 minutes
I watched this movie several months ago and actually ended up buying a copy to have on hand at school, since my yearbook students were watching documentaries and my incoming seniors will be reading a play. This film goes behind the scenes of several Southern California schools preparing for a Shakespeare Festival that many celebrities, including Kevin Spacey, performed at while teenagers. Students must take scenes from plays and reinterpret them, without costumes. It's fascinating to see the spin put on classic scenes from
Macbeth and Midsummer's Night Dream- some groups are purists, focusing just on traditional acting, while some go over-the-top with raps and comedy sketches. The rivalry between school is intense, and the groups focused on are from a variety of different areas. There's one that is semi-local to where I live, from the high-desert town of Hesperia. These kids are lower middle class, many of them choosing to do drama because they're either bored or hope to use it as a vehicle to escape their town. There's an inner-city LA charter school that prides itself in helping kids from gangs and the street turn their lives around. There's also a few private schools that have kids who maybe feel a bit entitled but are still very talented. The documentary follows them from their planning and practicing until the end of the competition.

Should You Watch It? I thought it was very well-done and love that these kids are so invested in Shakespeare. The plays aren't the main focus, so even if you're not a fan of The Bard, you'll still appreciate the effort these teens put in.

Seen these? Any other good ones for me to add to my queue? 

Top Ten Tuesday- Turn Offs

I feel like this week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is just asking for trouble- we're supposed to list the top ten things that will deter us from picking up a book. I must preface this list with:

a. I am not a YA reader
b. I may be a bit of a snob know what I like
c. I'm sure that even thought you like vampires you're still super cool
d. There are always exceptions 

Brace yourself.

1. The YA Genre- I wrote about it here in more detail, but with very exceptions, I don't read YA. for those of you ready to come at with me with pitch forks, I am definitely still considering Eleanor and Park

2. Paranormal/vampires/mermaids/fairies/zombies- I know a lot of these exist in YA, but they are also present in the fantasy genre, which I don't tend to gravitate towards. I love that writers have the imagination to create new worlds and new creatures, I just prefer things to stay a little more realistic (the Harry Potter series and oompa loompas are exceptions). 

3. "Based on the hit movie"- I refuse to read books that are written after the movies come out. I'm not sure if it still happens, but I remember during the nineties it was incredibly common (especially with kid books).

4. Animals stories- It's not that I don't like some of these stories, it's just that nine times out of ten THE FUCKING ANIMAL DIES. And then I cry. 

5. Mass market sizes- There are a million (especially older) exceptions, but I am always very suspicious of a book that is published as a mass market paperback.

6. The author's name in jumbo print- My point:

7. Romance novels- I'm talking bodice rippers, folks.

8. "x Ways to ________"- I'm skeptical of books that tell me how I'm going to change my whole life in five simple ways. 

9. Cookbooks without pictures- I'm not really a visual learner, but I need pictures.

10. "New York Times Bestseller"- This is definitely a red flag, but is not the end all be all. I've read some great books of the list, but let's face it- there's a ton of shit on there too.

 What are your turn offs? Anyone want to try to prove I'm wrong?

High Five for Friday

It's that time again! I get to yammer on and on about the five coolest parts of my week.

Clockwise from the top right:
1. Three of my good friends and I went to an event called The Pageant of the Masters on Saturday in Laguna. It was pretty neat! If you've watched the Gilmore Girls or Arrested Development episodes with the same concept you probably get the gist. If not, what happens is famous pieces of art are recreated and actual people are subbed in for the painted ones. There's a voice over telling a story and they change every few minutes. The theater is outside and there are tons of local artists with their work in the area outside the stage. It was definitely worth the expense and drive. 

2. I made the famous cornflake Momofuku Milk Bar cookies and still haven't decided if I like them. The texture is interesting and they're super flat. But there's something in the flavor that keeps me coming back for more. Still not sure.

3. I got in two bike rides last week, twenty miles with my grandpa and 23 with my brother. This morning I plan on doing five or ten alone and then meeting up with my grandpa for twenty more. This bridge above is a mile or two south of Yorba Regional Park on the Santa Ana River Trail.

4. I made pasta this week from scratch and it was the best batch I've ever done. The trick is in the kneading. 

5. I've been so lucky to see so many friends this week- something like 7 of them! During the school year it's so hard to grab lunch or go shopping, so I'm taking advantage of it while I can.

High Five for Friday is featured on the Lauren Elizabeth blog

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. In our society we give people a lot of credit for quitting bad habits (smoking, drug abuse, overeating) but often fail to recognize those that never picked them up in the first place.
2. I hate giving gifts to people. Let me rephrase that: I hate the process of physically giving gifts to people I don't know well. I have no problem with my husband, mom, siblings, and few close friends, but otherwise it feels so awkward (same exact thing with receiving gifts). This morning I took a gift to the neighbors, who we're friendly with but not friends with, for their new baby and it was just... weird.
3. I'm going to start telling solicitors (that I'm stupid enough to answer the door to) that I rent my home and can't make any decisions regarding solar panels, yard maintenance, or anything else they're trying to get me to do. I get that they're doing their job, but no means no folks.
4. I have this overwhelming urge to read Jaqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. It seems like the ultimate pool read right now. 
5. At school we have to have some sort of "attention getter" to make the kids shut up and get on task. Right now I count down from five, so they can finish their conversation, and they better be silent when I get to one. It works perfectly, but I was also thinking that I could say "stop" and they could respond with "collaborate and listen" (I think I saw this on Pinterest). My main motivation is the look on the principal's face when she observes it for the first time. 
6. Bear with me on this one- I really miss cocktail wieners. I eat chicken now, which they are not. And even when I wasn't as cautious about my meat intake they were most definitely not on the frequent foods list. I've just had a strong craving for the little guys for two or three days now (and no I'm not pregnant, so please, ever so kindly, shut your face). Maybe it's the "you always want what you can't have" conundrum. Oh, by the way, I don't suggest texting your husband or significant other with this thought.
7. While reading Zadie Smith's collection Changing My Mind I came across the best quote, in which she writes, "The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer." I love this- you have to distance yourself from your writing in order to change perspective.
8. Kara, from It's a Dog Lick Baby World, posted this hilarious version of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" the other day and I just had to repost. I usually share the original version with my students so they can understand what irony isn't. This will make it even better:

9. As someone who is consistently the planner of activities at work, home, and socially it is so very, very nice when people take over once in awhile. 

10. I know it's so three years ago (or whatever), but I still never fail to be impressed by Shazam.

On Boredom

[source; by the way, arson is not a recommended boredom buster]

When I was a kid, my mom had a rule during summer breaks: if we said we were bored we were given a chore. Her point was twofold; we had a room full of toys and friends down the street, and she quite simply didn't want to hear us whine. This meant that we had to be inventive. Blocks were turned into cities, our toys became merchandise in the store we set up, and scraps of old material became a new fashion line for our Barbies. Our boredom catalyzed our imaginations and motivated us to find new things to do with the old things we had.

Finding myself once again in a position where I have summer breaks, I think about this idea of boredom quite often. There are different types of boredom we experience. There's the "this meeting has been dragging on forever and I could care less about what he's talking about" boredom, as well as the "I have been scrubbing this grout for thirty minutes and it's still not white enough" drag. We also have the "I'm bored with my life" conundrum that comes as result of a stagnant career, relationship, or social life. And then the most common boredom that results from not having "anything to do" (the "do" being said at an octave higher). At the root of every single one of these problems is a lack of stimulation, a lack of fascination, a lack of energy. And this is why boredom can be good.

When you're bored you really have two choices: you can continue to be bored or you can do something about it. If you're content to linger in the abyss of boredom than I'm not really sure what to tell you- as my grandmother would say, "God helps those who help themselves." But for the rest of us who aren't willing to waste hours, days, weeks, or years under the pressure of lost time, boredom can be incredibly motivating. Boredom forces you to take action, whether if it's as simple as ordering a new book to read or braving Linkedin for a new job opportunity. The desire to escape boredom churns the creative juices and forces the brain to consider other options. Boredom makes a person think outside the box- this is why it's good.

But who really is bored in the era of smart phones, tablets, a million television channels, and social media? Or do these options make us more bored? As a society are we harder to stimulate because we're used to such a high level of excitement and sensory bombardment? The short answer: I don't know. I'm inclined to say that for some people the abundance of options in this world keeps them perfectly occupied, while some people want more. Some people get burnt out on watching YouTube and refreshing their Twitter feed. Those are the people that become the innovators and creators, I suppose. Bottom line- in moderation technology is a great way to enjoy yourself and sometimes even challenge your brain (like when you watching a TED Talk... not The Bachelor), but I think it shouldn't be a crutch. Sometimes you need to let boredom happen so that you can consider doing things you may not necessarily be used to doing (find a new guy to date! go to a museum! try a new recipe!). 

It bothers me that so many kids aren't experiencing boredom the way we did when we were younger (cue return to "when I was a kid" speech). Kids need to spend days at home without preplanned activities so that they're forced to use their imagination and invent new games and projects. They need to experience what it feels like to lay on their beds during the summer heat staring at the ceiling racking their brains for things to do. That's when they'll have the best daydreams and create the best stories. Boredom is not only a right of passage, but the way in which it's handled says so much about a kid (or any person, for that matter).

Personally, I don't experience boredom often, since I'm so proactive about combating it. During the school year the only time it pops up is during meetings or after I've graded thirty or forty papers on the same subject. I just don't have time! During the summer I welcome it. For me boredom means I have free time, which is then filled with friends, outings to random places I generally don't have time to visit, books, and working out. Some of the best, most fun things in my life are the product of boredom- this blog, the Coursera classes I've dabbled in, yoga after I tired of running, attending readings and museums in LA, and developing better friendships. It's about how we use our time. 

Embrace boredom. It can be a really great thing.

From the Interwebs- Advice, Travel, Celebrity Deaths, and Pizza


1. Check out this post from What's Gaby Cooking on her trip to Alaska. I did some Googling and found out her expedition was incredibly expensive, but it looks completely worth it.

2. I love my friends and family members with kids, but this article, "5 Things Parents Need to Stop Saying to Non-Parents" in the Huffington Post is so great. I mean so, so, so great. I really hate it when people assume that my husband and I will instantly become different people when we become parents. Our lives will change when that time comes, but you know what? We don't eat over our carpet, and neither will our kids. Neither of us will have to abandon our hobbies. I will not subject myself to hours of animated animals singing. And I will never go to Disneyland more than once a year (or even less). Done. Boom. Drop mic. Walk away. The end.

3. I loved this list of fifteen favorite places in the world. Some are typical, but some are places I never really thought about traveling to before (Berline, for example).

4. This Hello Giggles article isn't exactly the best, but it did make me think about why people care so much about celebrity deaths. Take that guy from Glee- I feel badly for his parents and loved ones, and it's always tragic when someone feels so horribly about life they turn to drugs, but I'm really not affected. I know it sounds crass, but I can't muster up more than a "that's too bad."

5. I loved this story about the little girl with cancer who ends up having a pizza party. Pretty impressed that she was able to eat three pieces! And that SoCal people were nice enough to notice and send food.

Top Ten Tuesday- Give Them Some Credit

The Broke and the Bookish ask us for ten authors that deserve more attention, as opposed to people like JK Rowling and her pseudonym. Anyway, bear in mind that these are authors that aren't necessarily being placed in the front window displays of Barnes or hanging out on the top of Amazon's bestsellers lists. Hopefully some of you may know a few of them!

1. Kristopher Jansma- I read The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards as an ARC and thought that it would do better than it did. It received glowing reviews, but never earned the recognition it deserved. 

2. Victor LaValle- LaValle has a few books out and a small following, but given what I've read in Big Machine and The Devil in Silver he should have an even larger one.
3. Mark Dunn- I've only read one of Dunn's books, Ella Minnow Pea, but hadn't heard about it at all until a friend mentioned it. It was so fun and quirky I don't know why I haven't picked up his other books. 

4. Reif Larsen- Larsen is the author of one of my favorites, The Selected Works of TS Spivet (soon to be a movie), his first book. If you add one book from this list to your wish list this should be the one. I'm sure it will blow up once the movie is released, but at least this way you can say you read it back when it wasn't popular.

5. Maggie O'Farrell- I picked up The Vanishing Acts of Esme Lennox several years ago and then read it last year. I felt a little sheepish about waiting so long considering it was so good (and she has a few other books out too).

6. Peter Bognanni- Bognanni has only written one book, The House of Tomorrow (one all you YA readers might like!) but it was well-written and heart-warming without being corny.
7. Carolyn See- See was one of my professors at UCLA and her daughter, Lisa See, has received quite a bit of recognition, but Mother See is just as bit as talented (I remember her book Golden Days fondly).

8. Sunshine O'Donnell- Open Me came out six years ago and I was definitely moved moved by the story about professional mourners. Unfortunately she hasn't written a new book, nor did this one get much attention whatsoever. 

9. Rodes Fishburne- Going to See the Elephant was a well-written, fun novel that received very little publicity at all.

10. Dominic Smith- I thoroughly enjoyed Beautiful Miscellaneous and his most recent novel Bright and Distant Shores got great reviews, and yet his name is still not really out there.

Who do you think needs some more credit? 

High Five for Friday

Time for a weekly check in, brought to you by The Lauren Elizabeth blog.

Clockwise, from the top left:

1. My ice cream consumption is out of control. After I went to A La Minute last week, my husband and I tried a local place called Christopher Michael Ice Cream (not bad at all) and a place a bit farther in Sierra Madre called Mother Moo Creamery (damn good). Not to mention a Blizzard and a frozen yogurt stop later in the week. I'd probably be more concerned if the scale reflected the excess, but luckily it hasn't been an issue- yet. Next week there will be none. Pinky promise.

2. Over the weekend my husband and I made a quick trip to the Huntington Library and Gardens with some friends. It was a bit warm out, but, as always, the grounds were beautiful. We popped into the exhibit halls and galleries for a few minutes as well.

3. Yoga has definitely been my work out of choice this week- I've gone four days in a row. My hamstrings and arms are a bit sore, but in a good way. Two of my students joined me on Wednesday and I was pretty shocked at how mature they were. 

4. The Plumerias are blooming! I wish I could say this was because if my green thumb, but I have to give credit to the guys that do our yard. 

5. Earlier in the week, when it was hotter, I swam laps (I use that term loosely, since we definitely don't have a pool conducive to lap swimming) and decided to torture poor Cordie. She really is a trooper.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Would anyone be interested in making this a weekly feature that you could link your blog to (you know, how The Broke and the Bookish do for TTT)? I've seen a few bloggers borrow this and link back (totally fine, by the way, go for it!) and was just curious. Email me or comment below.

1. It's rained this morning. While it does seem to happen on occasion, July rain in Southern California always baffles me.

2. I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein yesterday and cried more times than I can count. Good God. Between the wife having a brain tumor, the custody battle with his daughter, and then Enzo (the dog) getting old (and getting left alone for 3 days! And getting hit by a car!) it was just too much. Too much I tell you! Then, just to compound the waterworks I watched two episodes of Grey's Anatomy (so bad, but can't stop watching) and heard some horribly sad news about a family I knew back home. But anyway, the book is definitely amusing as it is told from the perspective of a dog, but if animal stories make you teary you've been warned.

3. Don't worry, Lady Gaga, no matter what your deep dark scandalous secrets are I'll still love you. Unless you've murdered a puppy- in that case I'm deleting your songs forever.

4. We went to LA (yes, I understand that means we're driving 150 miles round trip to see movies, but nothing good ever comes to our area, plus it's something to do) over the weekend and saw The Way Way Back with Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and assortment of teenage actors that I don't know the names of. I thought the movie was decent, but I have to say- I pretty much love Allison Janney. I mean, the woman almost makes me want to switch to Kaiser for fuck's sake, and I hate HMOs. She was her normal kooky self in the movie- an alcoholic single mother that is obnoxiously wonderful.

5. Visual Editions, the innovative publishers from England, are working with Fraser Mugerridge, who's sending Jake Robinson to La Mancha to "metaphorically trace and visually interpret the journey Don Quixote in an epic (and most likely comic) way" (Visual Editions). I have a feeling it may be years until we see the final outcome, but it's still something worth getting excited over. 

6. Have you noticed that there are far fewer kids with broken limbs than when we were kids? I highly doubt calcium deposits have gotten stronger or bone density has improved. My theory: kids are too busy playing on their parents' tablets and phones, watching TV, or booting up the video game systems to go do crazy shit outside like back in the day. I remember being in third and fourth grade borderline jealous that I didn't have a cast for everyone to sign, as it seemed like every other week someone else broke their arm or foot. I know that the world is a different place and it's more difficult to just let your kids roam the streets unsupervised, but still! I guess I'm old school- we were allowed to play on the computer or watch TV for maybe two or so hours a day during the summer. Otherwise, we were left to work through our own boredom.

7. I think everything everywhere that you put in your mouth should be salted caramel flavor. Ice cream, cupcakes, coffee, pizza, tacos, sandwiches, pasta...

8. My beloved iPhone 4s was fried by the piss-poor electrical wiring on the cruise we went on, so I had to upgrade to a 5. This unfortunately meant that I had to order a new case, since my old one was too small (if you say "apple" while holding your tongue it sounds like "asshole"- #thingsthatmakeyougohmmm #hashtagsinblogarestupid). I bought another over-priced Book Book and am even more in love. This one has additional card slots (I use it as a wallet if I'm just running to the store or to yoga) and- even better- has a hole in the back for the camera so I don't have to remove it from the case every time I take a picture.

[image source but not a legit site to buy from]

9. I'm going to start tweeting like Alton Brown does. Genius. Plus I love Post-Its.

[Source: Alton Brown's twitter]
10. Every day we don't use the air conditioning is a tiny victory. I hate, hate, hate spending money on utilities. So boring! Sure, we have the money, but who wants to give it to the electric company? I'd rather give it to Amazon or Anthro or even my savings account. Our electric bill usually pretty manageable, but last summer, when the old pool guy cranked up the filter (this summer we haven't needed to yet) and we used the air it tripled. This year we're on a mission to strategically use the whole house fan and portable fans to keep it from sky rocketing. So far, so good. It's the little things, guys (like 200 of them). Yes, I know having a pool makes this easier.

Sponsored Review- My Education (AKA: Hot Lesbian Sex)

Hot lesbian sex. Three words that if Penguin used in their marketing campaign Susan Choi's My Education would be an instant New York Times Bestseller (and will simultaneously lead a lot of pervy men to blog... sorry guys). 

But, then again, who really wants to be a NYT Bestseller? For crap's sake Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele are on that list. Besides, My Education is far, far better than the normal riffraff that finds it's way up there.

Back to the lesbians. 

Regina Gottlieb is a young graduate student that becomes a TA for a notorious professor on campus, Nicholas Brodeur. Rumors fly about his sexual liaisons with students and tumultuous marriage with his expecting wife, Martha. Regina looks past this and falls into the comfortable routine of attending her own classes, assisting a Chaucer class, and developing a friendship with her roommate Dutra (with the occasional benefit ifyaknowwhatImean). Months later, she is at a party at Brodeur's home when sparks fly between Regina and Martha (who has since delivered her son). A passionate affair commences, Martha leaving her baby with the nanny and eventually asking Nicholas for a separation.

From the start it is apparent that Regina is far more invested in the blossoming relationship than Martha is. The story becomes one of obsession- Regina's only purpose in life is to be the other half of Martha. She drops out of school and fails to maintain any other relationships, her only focus is on her lover, who refuses to acknowledge her presence in public or with her estranged husband.

Eventually their affair is violently and mortally rocked. Regina must cope with loneliness and heartache- she must now return focus to herself. The book fast-forwards over a decade in the future and the reader is able to see how Regina's life has panned out and how the people of her past are still a part of her present.

The writing in this book was both a strength and a weakness. Choi's prose is complex and deliberate. Her vocabulary is extensive and her descriptions thoughtful. Yet at times there was a hint of pretension that surpassed Regina's voice and blurred into that of the writer's.

The issue of sexuality in this novel was quite fascinating. Both women appear to be bisexual, given their pasts and futures. But their relationships and what it means transcends sexuality, with different implications for both women. Regina, as much as I wanted to find depth to her, really was just a young student trying to find herself. She was in a new town, didn't seem to have many friends, had an overbearing mother, and was unsure of herself- her becoming unhealthily attracted to an intelligent, attractive, older woman who was basically the opposite of her own mother (I'm still trying to decide if there are "mommy issues" at play here- perhaps feelings of abandonment? A desire to change and replace?), wasn't surprising. And Martha? She was unhappily married and confined to motherhood- she needed an out with actually having to go out. At first glance it may seem like an unlikely pairing, but with further review it really is not. Frankly, my favorite character actually ended up being Dutra- his laid back charisma and sharp intellect were far more interesting than these two tortured women.

The dynamics of age is also worth a glance. Regina is immature, partly due to the fact that she is only twenty-one, younger than her peers. She's not equipped to handle much of what is thrown at her throughout the course of her book, whether the object of her desire was female or male. Martha, who is in her early thirties, wants to be young, like Regina. She misses her obligation-free days and the scandalous affair she has began with one of her husband's young female students is a glimpse back to that time period. Essentially, she's going through a midlife crisis a bit too early. (And her name- Martha! The name of an eighty-year-old! Her character's persona was so much older than she actually was.)

Don't mistake my frustration as criticism, though. These sorts of accusations and questions are what make the book interesting and thought-provoking (hello, book clubs!). While it did take me twenty or so pages to get invested in the story, once I got into the meat of the book I enjoyed it. While it may not be for everyone, being a little racy and a bit wordy, I do recommend it to those who enjoy Chabon, Cunningham, or Messud.  

Disclosure: Penguin may have generously sent me this copy, but all opinions are my own.